Who does not love a good cake walk?
Take a moment and think back on the cake walks that have made an impression on you. Was it the music, the color of the floor tile, or the folks playing the game that inspired you?
Heck no. It was the sight of beautiful cakes lined up on a table! Are you with me on this one?
Charles Repnow is a freelance writer who lives in Rugby. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays in The Minot Daily News.
Recently I was at a fundraising function, and they were having a cake walk. I am always curious to see what type of cakes have been created and which one would be the most desired. I could not believe my eyes when there was not one layer-cake in the collection! For those of us who like just a tiny bit of brightness in our cake walks, there needs to be layer cakes! I find it hard to be lured by the charm of a 9-by-13 cake in a foil pan. Now I am not saying that these don't have their place, but to start a cake walk without a few impressive layer cakes is just not right.
In Underwood they often had cake walks during ballgames as fundraisers. They were always held in the home economics room. As I recall, they had several layer cakes and often the top five most attractive cakes were not won by just a single trip around the square. After having won two cakes, you could trade these back in for one of the grander cakes. Granted it took a bit longer, but they sold far more tickets because often folks were willing to play the game if they could have a chance at one of these cakes. It also added to the excitement of the cake walk, and it brought a lot of attention to the fine art of cake bak-ing and decorating.
Some of the more decorative cakes came in the shape of a doll cake, a football cutout cake, a three-layered cake with grand frosting, and sometimes layered cakes which were decorated with candy such as gumdrops or even lolly pops. Whenever I knew there was going to be a cake walk, I came loaded with quarters, and I made sure I had plenty of time to play. My luck at winning the grander cakes was not immense, but I do recall once winning a very nice, light-pink cake with fluffy frosting. All across the top were daisies, pink roses, orange colored cosmos, and bumblebees. Once these plastic decorations were removed, it was revealed that they could be reused as active sandwich toothpicks. Needless to say at a later date a few sandwiches were not only blooming, but abuzz with style.
In the 25 years that Jan taught at the Wolford School, I must admit that I had the chance to see many lovely and creative cakes appear on the gym floor for not only cake walks but bake sales. I still can recall with great detail a cake that was created by Sara Yoder. She fashioned a cake to look like a spring watering can. For the handle, she called on the assistance of a milk jug! Now here is a woman who deserves to be on red carpet for Superstars of Attractive Cake Bakers for fundraising!
I was so moved by Sara's work of art that I created a cake for the next sale that looked like a 1950s diner. It was complete with licorice window boxes and shutters! Now creating it was only half the fun-seeing folks getting into a bidding battle was amusing entertainment.
Are you ready to banish the bad habit of taking a 9-by-13 cake in a foil pan to the next cake walk? These cakes in foil pans, frosted with store-bought frosting are blocking your potential of becoming a contestant in the Pillsbury Bake-off. You must be willing to do a little maneuvering in order to get this new relationship off the ground. First of all, turn off your cell phone no Twittering and no Facebook until your layered cake has been removed from the baking pans safely.
Here are a couple of tips on making cake baking easy and successful. There are many other tips, but when I have had a mishap in baking, I have come to discover it often can be traced back to these steps.
1. Follow the recipe explicitly. Each direction given in a correct recipe is placed there for a purpose. For best results, follow the directions given in the recipe exactly.
2. Be sure to use accurate measurements. This is very important in baking. To measure dry ingredients: I still prefer to sift flour once before measuring. There are some who say this is not necessary; however, I have my best results by doing this. After sifting to measure, pile the flour lightly into the measuring cup, and when full, level off with a knife. When working with baking powder, soda, and salt, measure them by dipping the spoon into the ingredient, filling, and then leveling off with a knife. To measure shortening, pack the fat into a cup or spoon and level with a knife. To measure liquid ingredients use a glass measuring cup that is easy to read.
This is an easy cake to make and works well with the Seven-Minute Icing. You can select to place a filling such as lemon, pineapple or coconut between the layers; however, the frosting works, too.
Take the road less traveled in today's world and bake a homemade cake for your next cake walk. It will once again put the accent on sensational! You will also know that the art of baking is one to be enjoyed and shared.
Sweet Indulgence Cake
2-1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup canned coconut milk
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
In a mixing bowl, sift the flour together with the baking powder, salt, and granulated sugar. Whisk together in a small bowl the coconut milk and whole milk. Make a dip in the center of the dry ingredients and, in the following order, add: the oil, butter, half of the milk mixture, the lemon extract. Beat with electric mixer on a low speed until just blended. Then hand whip with a whisk for 1 minute, until the batter is smooth. Add remaining milk mixture and the egg yolks which have been beaten until smooth.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar as you continue beating, until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the batter in a cutting down the center with a medium size spatula until blended. Divide batter between pans and smooth tops and tap pans on counter slightly.
Bake in the oven 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of layer comes out clean. Do not open the oven during the first part of the baking. This sudden change in temperature can cause the layers to fall. Let cook in the pans for 5 minutes before inverting onto wire racks.
When completely cool, fill with desired filling or frosting and frost completely with Seven-Minute Frosting. You many select to add sweetened flaked coconut, nuts or candy. Tinting the frosting will greatly enhance the appearance of the coconut. Remember we eat with our eyes first!
Here is an icing that is easy to use. It can be tinted light or dark, and due to its sticky nature, coconut, nuts and candy will attach with little effort.
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup cold water
2 egg whites, unbeaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place sugar, water, egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in top part of double boiler. Cook over hot water beating constantly with an electric hand mixer until icing is thick, and will hold a point. Remove from stove. Add extract and beat lightly and spread on cake in swirls.